Why Toronto LGBTQ Activists are Suing an Infamous Anti-Gay Leader for $104 Million

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Why Toronto LGBTQ Activists are Suing an Infamous Anti-Gay Leader for $104 Million

Bill Whatcott marched in July's Pride Parade and handed out anti-gay literature, according to the lawsuit.

Justin Trudeau marches in Toronto Pride. The Prime Minister was criticized in anti-gay literature by Bill Whatcott. Photo by Scorpion Lens from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Justin Trudeau marches in Toronto Pride. The Prime Minister was criticized in anti-gay literature by Bill Whatcott. Photo by Scorpion Lens from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Toronto’s Pride Parade never seems to be complete without a few homophobes. Each year, dozens show up on the fringes of the parade—near Yonge-Dundas Square hours before the parade or further south on Church Street—with placards denouncing the “gay lifestyle.” Lately, with Pride Toronto vetting all signs before they hit the parade route, there have been fewer anti-gay demonstrations.

But this July, the Gay Zombies Cannabis Consumers Association managed to infiltrate the parade, donning bright green body suits and handing out anti-gay literature.

Activists are having none of it—and rightfully so.

A class-action lawsuit for $104 million has been filed against the “gay zombie” leader, well-known anti-gay activist Bill Whatcott, claiming that the thousands of flyers he and his group passed out during the parade constitute as hate speech and defame the LGBTQ community and the Liberal Party. Toronto lawyer Douglas Elliott, on behalf of former MPP George Smitherman and LGBTQ activist Christopher Hudspeth, filed the suit last week.

The two-page flyers distributed at the parade depicted photos of anal warts and a deceased body that Whatcott called an “AIDS fatality” in addition to a critique of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, and former federal leader of the opposition Bill Graham.

“The offensive literature exposed people to hatred and vilification based on their sexual orientation,” reads the statement of claim.

Elliott is also seeking an injunction to have Whatcott and those who marched with him banned from future Pride parades across the country. It’s part of an effort to keep Pride free of the bigotry that makes many parade-goers wary of attending.

Meanwhile, Elliot says Smitherman and Hudspeth will seek disclosure of Whatcott’s financial records as they’re unsure how he funded the distribution of the flyers.

Whatcott has a fraught history with LGBTQ communities. He’s best known for challenging the Saskatchewan provincial government to define the grounds of free speech after distributing flyers that sought to “keep homosexuality out of Saskatoon’s public schools” in 2013. That challenge reached the Supreme Court of Canada, and Whatcott’s actions were deemed hate speech. He was also jailed in the 1990s for his anti-abortion activism.

In response to the lawsuit, Whatcott writes that he will not divulge the identities of “anyone who helped me,” including those who marched with him as “gay zombies” in July. “As homosexual activism and other libertine and anti-Christian movements gain power in Canada, freedom and truth are dying and those cherished principles are being replaced with falsehood, censorship, and tyranny,” he writes.

The lawsuit is a positive step forward. Pride should be a safe space for Torontonians to celebrate their sexual and gender identities without fear of persecution or hatred. Attempts to stop serial anti-gay activists should be applauded.

It’s unlikely that $104 million will be collected from Whatcott, who says he’s currently living in a friend’s basement. But the lawsuit sets a precedent: the homophobes shouldn’t be an inevitable part of the Pride experience—and Torontonians shouldn’t have to stand for it.

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